What do you get when you combine four fantastic films, three world-famous directors, two days, and one uncommon obsession?
The answer: Saint Scholastica’s third annual film fest, an occasion that event coordinator and assistant professor of communication Nathan Carroll said featured “excellent entertaining works of art that stand the test of time.”
The weekend event spanning from Feb. 12-13 featured four movies that when viewed together, illustrate an interrelated, underlying connection.
"It is in the strange intersection of these four outstanding films by three legendary filmmakers that we find a link through their one uncommon obsession: making movies," Carroll said. “These are four films I love by three film directors that I greatly respect as artists, but the ways in which their careers overlapped are unique and interesting for their own sake and so form the rough thematic link of the films chosen for the festival.”
In an interview with a local TV station, Carroll explains how the theme of obsession unifies the four feature films.
The first night of the festival featured the screening of Les Blank’s Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe along with Gates of Heaven by Errol Morris, which Carroll said is unique in its documentary style, which uses re-creation and staging to get to the truth of human nature. Carroll said were been paired together because of a friendly competition between the Blank and Morris.
Carroll discusses the films screened on the first night of the festival.
As Morris began working on his documentary following tale of contending pet cemeteries, Herzog vowed that he would eat his shoe if Morris completed it, Carroll said. When Morris did indeed finish his film, which movie critic Rogert Ebert now lists as one of the top ten films ever made, Herzog pulled through with his promise.
Carroll discusses the combination of the films screened on the first night of the festival.
On Saturday afternoon "Burden of Dreams" by Les Blank was shown, paired with an evening screening of "Fitzcarraldo" by Werner Herzog. Carroll said "Burden of Dreams" is a legendary film, because it captures one of the most discussed and troubled film shoots ever during the creation of Fitzcarraldo.
“The star of Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinski, was notoriously an impossible actor to get along with,” Carroll said. “His fights on set with Herzog are the stuff of legend and are captured in 'Burden of Dreams.'”
Carroll said that St. Scholastica had the honor of Les Blank filming a special video introduction of "Burden of Dreams" for the film festival, in which he related a few interesting tales about the making of his movie. This, Carrol said, was a highlight of the weekend.
"Fitzcarraldo" seemed to be a favorite among viewers since Saturday night’s screening drew the largest crowd of about 30 people, Carroll said, noting that he views Fitzcarraldo his “island film.”
“If trapped on an island with one movie to watch over and over again... it would be 'Fitzcarraldo,'” Carroll said. “It's just so epic and cinematic with brain breaking imagery.”
Carroll describes the basis of Saturday’s films "Burden of Dreams" and "Fitzcarraldo."
So where do these four movies by obsessed filmmakers intersect? Carroll said that "Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe," shown Friday night, was the film closest to bringing all three filmmakers at the same time.
“Since Morris did finish his excellent first film, 'Gates of Heaven,' Les Blank filmed Herzog's publicity stunt with the shoe in Berkeley, Calif., which of course was also celebrating Morris' film debut,” Carroll said. “Because of this relationship, Herzog took Blank with him on the making of 'Fitzcarraldo' to film 'Burden of Dreams' in the Amazaon jungle a few years later.”
Though Carroll said that each film is amazing in its own right, he notes that the three films are enjoyed even more when explored together. “The unifying context of programming them together in the film fest adds another layer of meaning and interpretation,” Carroll said.
Carroll ends his interview with a summary of Obsessed theme among the four films.
Walt Ostrander, president of the CSS film society, said that crowd favorites were "Gates of Heaven" and "Fitzcaraldo." “Reactions were generally positive, with clapping at the end of some,” Ostrander, a self-designed film major, said.
Fang Sun, a CSS student from China, said this was the first film festival in America that she has ever attended, and enjoyed the fact that the festival had a theme. “People sat at the screenings with a similar thought in mind,” Sun said. “I liked socializing with people who like to think more deeply about the movies.”
Carroll, who said that the goal of these film festivals is “to bring people on campus for a valuable cultural experience,” said even though he would have liked to see a better turnout, he views the this year’s festival as a success.
“Ultimately the festivals are demand driven to the extent we open them to community free of charge as a cultural and academic service to the community,” Carroll said. “So as long as enough people are interested in these film festivals I'm willing to keep working at programming them.”